Covid unemployment will have ‘profound effect’ on public mental health

Becky Banham
By Becky Banham,
updated on Feb 24, 2021

Covid unemployment will have ‘profound effect’ on public mental health

If you’re facing job concerns that are affecting your mental health because of the pandemic, you’re not alone

With  the UK unemployment rate rising according to the latest figures from the ONS, a new report warns that unemployment and job uncertainty during the Covid-19 pandemic will have a profound effect on mental health across the UK.

There are now calls for sustained government action in the Budget next week to help protect people from these effects. The Mental Health Foundation is calling on both local and national government to put practical and emotional support in place for the hundreds of thousands of people struggling with unemployment.

The report, published by the Mental Health Foundation and Cochrane Common Mental Disorders, has indicated multiple impacts of increasing unemployment on mental health. Increased job insecurity, for example, has been found to increase the risk of depressive symptoms, while unemployment has been found to negatively affect self-esteem and increase feelings of distress.

The research also shows that job insecurity  does not affect all groups equally. Those working in insecure jobs are likely to earn much less than the average worker, are more likely to be key workers, and are more likely to be from Black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds. This suggests that these groups may be among the highest at risk of the adverse effects of job insecurity and unemployment.

Commenting on the research, Mark Rowland, Chief Executive of the Mental Health Foundation said: “The rising unemployment we are experiencing as a country has costs to society that are more than just financial; there are serious consequences for the mental health of the hundreds of thousands of people who have lost their jobs since the beginning of the pandemic.

“If we are to prevent a mental health crisis, we need to do much more to offer practical and emotional support to people experiencing unemployment, both during and after the pandemic.”

“We are calling on UK governments to extend the protective measures they have put in place to help mitigate the mental health impacts of the pandemic.”

The charity has made several policy recommendations in the report aimed at enabling a stronger support net for those who lose their jobs. These include:

  • Supporting the calls from Citizens Advice to make Universal Credit uplifts permanent.
  • Calling for  benefits to keep pace with the cost of living.
  • Requesting that the government build upon  existing support  to  help  prevent low-income households from falling  into debt with their energy providers.
  • Recommending that every local authority creates a clear roadmap for their local populations to help people to navigate redundancy and unemployment, including details of available services and support.

“Protecting mental health is not – and should not be – just down to us as individuals, Mark added.

“As this pandemic has shown, major external changes such as the loss of a job can have a significant impact on our mental wellbeing and our ability to recover from setbacks. If we want to rebuild a thriving post-pandemic economy, we must make mental health a priority - in our welfare system, our local government, our schools and workplaces.”

How to look after your mental health through unemployment

Navigating job uncertainty, unemployment or redundancy can have a huge impact on our mental health and how we feel about ourselves.

Psychotherapist and life coach Christine Elvin says, “Money worries can be demoralising and your self-esteem will suffer if you allow it to get you down. The job applications can be daunting and time-consuming for what seems like a waste of time, energy and effort when you don’t even get acknowledgement that your application arrived at the right department, let alone result in an interview.”

It can be tempting to spend every waking hour searching for new jobs, but putting that extra strain on yourself won’t help. It’s important to take time to look after yourself, practice regular self-care, and spend quality time with your loved ones.

“Try to remember you’re not the only one in this situation and eventually things will change,” says Christine. “If you apply for jobs daily and this is getting you down, maybe apply for them a couple of times a week so that you manage to take yourself away from the stress of application forms.”

If the pandemic has impacted your work situation, whether you’ve been recently made redundant, are facing unemployment or are considering a career change, you may benefit from seeking professional help.

If you’re experiencing low moods and are struggling to come to terms with your situation, speaking to a counsellor could help. Redundancy counselling is available to help you see a way forward.

Or if you feel ready to take the next step in your career, working with a coach can help you to uncover what it is you really want to do. A coach will listen to you, but also question you and challenge you to discover a side of yourself you didn’t know you had.

To learn more about coaching and how it can help you during a time of unease, or to find a coach near you or online, visit Life Coach Directory.

You can read the full report, ‘State of a Generation: Upheaval, uncertainty, and change’ on the Mental Health Foundation’s website.

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